DESPITE the government’s efforts to encourage Americans to ‘stay at home’ to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, many states have chosen to ignore this and allow religious groups to congregate.
When a church service in Florida was disrupted and its pastor was arrested, he condemned the “tyrannical government” for banning church service.
After this, the Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, quickly changed his tune and in accordance he designated religious services to be “essential activities.”
DeSantis said “I don’t think that the government has the authority to close a church” and that “in Easter season, people are going to want to have access to religious services.”
He is one of the many state officials who are trying to protect religious freedom during the coronavirus pandemic which, in turn, has led to the frustration of public health officials trying to enforce social distancing to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.
A majority of US states have not included churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other houses of faith, within the list of non-essential businesses which must close.
However, it is not clear how many places of worship are encouraging or holding services during the pandemic, for example, the leaders of Christianity Today and the National Association of Evangelicals issued a joint statement in which they proclaimed that their decision to close “comes out of sacrificial love, not from habitual or casual disregard for worship… We will not be passing the peace with hugs, but rather with texts and phone calls. Are these modes inferior? Yes. Will they be acceptable to the Lord? We also believe, yes.”
However, there has been some significant backlash to this, fuelled by the intervention of political leaders such as Greg Abbot, the governor of Texas, and Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida.
A group of theologians and ministers have claimed that “Something is terribly wrong with a culture that allows abortion clinics and liquor stores to remain open, but shuts down places of worship.
“Apart from Texas and Florida, there are more states who have made religious worship exempt from the restrictions placed as a result of the pandemic. This include states with many elderly residents and with many coronavirus cases, amongst these are Delaware, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire”. The governor in Michigan made clear that “A place of religious worship is not subject to penalty.”